Letter from the Chair

by Laura Lewis

The 2008 California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) Business Plan estimates an average of 18-20 HSR trains per hour by 2030 running at 125 mph during peak hours.  Granted this is decades away but the decisions we make today will determine how those trains change the quality of your life down the road.

For those of you that have not been following, the High Speed Rail Authority just recently released their Alternatives Analysis which gave several options for how to grade the Rail throughout the Peninsula.  So far City Council has not taken a position on the preferred option and as Mayor Bryant put it is hoping to define a “clear community voice” on the issue.

Meanwhile, five area cities; Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton Burlingame and Belmont, continue to coordinate through a coalition called the Peninsula Cities Consortium and have even hired lobbyists to pursue their preferred grading option-underground which may mean that Mountain View has little choice but to follow suit.

In addition, last week the Palo Alto City Council approved a letter to the CHSRA outlining more than 100 concerns about the controversial high-speed rail line including flawed and “grossly overestimated” ridership figures, inadequate discussion of right-of-way issues, and incomplete analysis of the rail line’s impacts on businesses, historic landmarks and air quality in the CHSRA’s Environmental Impact Report.  There has also been a movement underway to repeal Measure 1A outright due to some of the same concerns expressed in the Palo Alto letter and Menlo Park is even attempting to re-open a lawsuit contending that the CHRSA did not adequately analyze the impacts of the project before it decided to run high-speed trains along the Caltrain corridor.
I, like 52.7% of people voting in November 2008, did vote for measure 1A.  I love the high speed rail systems in Asia and Europe but admittedly when I look at pictures of the options presented by the HSR, they just don’t fit the futuristic vision I had of HSR when I cast my yes vote.

So what’s a girl to do?  Well, for starters attend the City’s High Speed Rail Community Meeting (May 3rd, 5:30 at the Mountain View Senior Center).  I’d also encourage you to educate yourself.  Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design (www.calhrs.com) is an educational organization that does not take a position on the HSR.

HSR has the possibility of ending up as either one of the biggest and best infrastructure projects of all time or one of the worst and most costly.  The direction it goes may be up to you.

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